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A Comedy of Errors or I Managed to Not Electrocute Myself

March 27, 2012
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Wouldn’t you know it? I write a post and mention in passing that I had briefly considered a work related post but deemed it too boring. Then suddenly, I have morning that’s not so boring. Before we get into that, how about a little background? If you don’t already know, I’m a civil engineer. I work for a small public agency in a padded cell cube that looks like this:


I could have cleaned up before taking the picture, but that would feel like lying. See that chair? It was the reason behind another interesting work tid-bit from last week, but we’ll get to that another day.


My official pieces of paper that say I’m an engineer.


Lou Seal – The SF Giants and I share a mascot. Lou Seal is equally adept at rallying fans in the bottom of the 9th as he is at brightening my cube. 

I also get to visit my construction sites on a regular basis. This is an awesome perk when it’s a gorgeous day and I just can’t stand my cube one minute longer. Yesterday morning, I had to go out to with a technician from another agency for him to perform well efficiency tests that we requested. We had three wells to do. He did all his preliminary measurements and then turned to me and said “Okay. Fire it up.”  Now, it is important to note that while I do have an engineering degree, it’s a CIVIL engineering degree. I am not an electrical engineer nor an electrician. My knowledge of electricity begins and ends with operating a light switch and not sticking a fork in an electrical outlet. Still, I’m pretty good at figuring things out and really, how hard can it be?


Hmm….that’s a lot of buttons and knobs.

I tried multiple combinations of buttons and knobs to no avail. It was complicated by the fact that the wells have a 30 second delay. So I would try one combination and wait. Then try another. Lather Rinse Repeat. I saw a crew of our maintenance guys in the distance and asked them how to start the well. They responded with “Don’t you just hit start?” Doh! Why didn’t I think of that?! Then I called the electrician who also said “You just hit start.”  Well just hitting Start is NOT WORKING. We decided to move to our 2nd location and the electrician would meet us out there to fix whatever what obviously wrong at the first well.

At the 2nd well, after the preliminary measurements were made, I hit start. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I called the electrician again who had my open up the cabinet behind the buttons.

 Upon opening the cabinet, the technician who was running tests peered in and proclaimed “That is a “No Touch” area.”  I agreed. Still the electrician insisted on our checking the fuses. Again, I know nothing about electrical components! I looked around and found what looked like they could be fuses. They weren’t plugged in. I relayed this information to the electrician who said “Okay plug those in.” Say what now? I look at my colleague and realize that since I work here and he doesn’t, that I really would have to be the one to reach in there. It suddenly occurs to me that I haven’t updated my beneficiary information for my life insurance and I make a mental note to do that as soon as I get back to the office. At the time of this posting, I still haven’t done that.

I gingerly reached and plugged in the fuses. We had power! Success! Even better, I’m still alive! I hit Start. Nothing. At this point, the electrician tells us to go to the 3rd site and he’d be right out to fix whatever the problem was. Now, going to the 3rd site seemed a little ridiculous to me, but my usual method of dealing with uncooperative appliances (kicking it) didn’t seem to be the best course of action. I opted for strategy number 2: Poke it with a stick.  Side note: I have been to Meth Lab dump training at work and where I was emphatically informed that poking strange garbage bags with sticks is NOT RECOMMENDED. You could potentially release the gases and die. Dying is also not recommended. I didn’t have a stick handy, so I opted for the one nature provided (my index finger) and started hitting buttons on the display inside the panel. I eventually found an option for local control and under that menu “Start”. I pushed yes and VOILA!! The well started!!! And I still hadn’t electrocuted myself!!!

All in all, I called the whole trip a success, even though at our second successful test, the technician broke one of his instruments and we couldn’t do the third test.

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